Other than the showers, the weight room is probably the most sex-segregated place in any gym. The body benefits of lifting and strength training are clear, yet the gender split persists: most of the gymgoers inside are men. So what’s keeping so many women from incorporating strength training into their fitness regimen, the way dudes do? “Women tend to shy away from weights because they’re intimidating if you aren’t familiar with them, and also, they fear bulking up too much,” explains personal trainer Rachel Cosgrove, the creator of the Women’s Health Spartacus 4.0 Workout in the Women’s Health Personal Trainer subscription tool.
About getting ripped: it can’t happen without lots of testosterone, which the female body doesn’t have. So you can nix worrying about that. And as for getting over weight room intimidation, a trainer or gym staffer can show you the ropes. Still not convinced? Here, Cosgrove offers six reasons that we hope will inspire you to make the weight room truly coed.
You’ll torch tons more calories
Fact: strength training, whether via free weights or a machine, builds muscle. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism is—even when you’re just hanging out on the sofa, says Cosgrove. Higher metabolism means more calories burned after the workout is over!
Your confidence will get a kick
No wonder guys who train strut around showing off their muscles. The physical benefits of weight training appear within weeks of starting a program. You’ll notice that your shape is toned and tighter, and that fires up your self-esteem, says Cosgrove.
You’ll boost your cardio performance
Stronger muscles translate into more speed and endurance on the track, more power as you pedal, and a more efficient performance at any activity. “Weight training also helps you blast past those plateaus that happen during cardio workouts—when you think you’ve reached your limit running or cycling, creating muscle mass gives you the edge you need,” says Cosgrove. In fact, Women’s Health assistant editor Caitlin Carlson recently wrote about how strength training helps with cardio, as she’s learning during her 6 Weeks to Bootcamp Fit training plan.
You’ll strengthen your bones
You’re probably not worried about osteoporosis now—it’s a condition caused by bone loss that doesn’t typically begin to show up until you’re well past the half-century mark. Still, keeping your bones healthy and strongnow will reduce your odds of developing osteoporosis later. And aside from consuming lots of calcium, one of the best ways is to weight train. “Repetitive lifting helps build bone density,” says Cosgrove.
You’ll see results almost instantly
“Unlike cardio workouts like running, strength training reaps benefits almost immediately. “Start strength training two times a week, and each week, you see incremental changes: you’ll get a little stronger, allowing you to do another set of reps or lift more weight,” says Cosgrove. “Seeing results so quickly makes you feel motivated and positive.”
Your risk of injury goes down
Stronger muscles and bones make you more stable and agile, so you aren’t as prone to injuries in or away from the gym, says Cosgrove.